Setting and achieving goals is one of the best surefire ways to improve the quality of our lives. We commonly use goals to improve our health, relationships, financial situation, career or business success, and even happiness. Sometimes goals are set for us, as in a work situation, but most of the time we determine our own goals.

SEE ALSO: How the Act of Daily Goal Setting Makes You Successful

Successfully achieving those goals is not only key to advancing our careers, but also to help us to grow as individuals. Unfortunately, when choosing our goals, we often unknowingly sabotage our success, by committing these three very common goal setting mistakes.

Thinking Too Narrowly

One of the biggest benefits of creating goals is that they force us to focus our time, attention, and energy on a specific objective, instead of scattering our focus and our resources among the broad range of possibilities vying for our attention. When we concentrate our efforts on a specific target, we’re more likely to accomplish our goals and less time.

That said, setting a goal that is too specific, while achievable, can lead to a goal setting mistake, by missing the true intention of our goal in the first place. We fall into this common trap by thinking too narrowly, and missing the bigger picture of what we’re really hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, this often leads, to wasted effort and frustration.

Setting a goal to lose 20 pounds for example, might be very valuable to a person who is otherwise healthy, but just carries a little bit of extra weight. For others, losing 20 pounds, while appealing, is misdirected effort, when the real goal is to achieve better health. When you look at the bigger picture, losing weight might not be the most effective goal. Perhaps quitting smoking would be more valuable. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure or reversing heart disease might be better served by changes in diet or increased activity. Though losing weight might be a byproduct, it isn’t actually the true goal.

Another example of a too specific goal might be to increase the number of sales calls or project numbers, when the real goal is to advance our career, and a more valuable goal might be to attain an advanced certification or further our education to make us more valuable to an employer. Still another to specific goal might be to find the perfect mate, when the real goal is to be happier. Even if we find the perfect mate, we won’t necessarily be happier, because we have missed the true underlying need.

Quantity VS. Quality

In our zealousness for accomplishment, we unwittingly sabotage our forward movement by setting quantity goals rather than quality goals. Quantity goals may simply mean that we have set too many goals at one time rather than focusing our attention on a single, or a select few quality goals. But perhaps more important, is the distinction between a quality goal and a quantity goal.

Quantity goals usually deal with numbers while quality goals generally deal with an improvement in our overall quality of life and work. Unfortunately, quantity goals are easier and faster to achieve so they tend to draw our interest, but often quality goals have more impact on making important changes that address our most crucial needs.

When setting goals, focus on quality rather than quantity to avoid goal setting mistakes. Also, notice if you tend to automatically gravitate to “numbers” goals. Quantity, “numbers” goals are not inherently bad, and can be very useful as long as they are also quality goals that address the bigger picture.

Unrealistic expectations

We see this common mistake time and time again. If we set a goal of finding a new job or getting a promotion but only give ourselves one month to do so, we’re just setting ourselves up for failure. Writing your first book generally takes more than six weeks, six months is a more realistic goal. Also, be sure your goals are within your control.

Being offered a new job, might not be within your control, but revising your resume, hiring a career coach, or sending out resumes and checking job postings every week is within your control. Finding an agent or publisher in a specific timeframe probably isn’t within your control, but completing a book proposal, and contacting potential agents is within your control.

keep these common pitfalls in mind When determining goals. Set goals that impact the bigger picture and address your true objectives. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking too narrowly and concentrate on quality over quantity. Make sure your goals are realistic, within your control and have a reasonable timeframe. While you’re at it, take a look at past goals that you weren’t able to achieve, see if you can revise them, and try again.

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